Holiday Sales Predicted To Rise

36% Of Retailers Expect To Add More Holiday Workers This Year

Winter ShoppingThe National Retail Federation (NRF) is forecasting November and December holiday sales will rise 4.1% over 2011, a figure that demonstrates both optimism and caution, according to experts. While the projection is above the 10-year average of growth for annual holiday sales increases, it's also more than a full percentage point lower than the actual gains in each of the past two years. "In all the years, this is the most challenging year doing a forecast," said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF. "There are so many uncertainties."

Despite economic strains like high unemployment, retailers appear to be relying on a recent spike in consumer confidence to make seasonal hiring decisions. According to survey data released by the consulting firm Hay Group, 36% of retailers expect to add more holiday workers this year, a 10% jump compared to 2011. Major retailers, including Walmart, Toys"R"Us and Macy's, are all planning to significantly ramp up hiring for the holiday season.

Whatever gains are made in store sales, there is widespread agreement among analysts that online shopping will again increase sharply. NRF predicts online holiday sales will rise to $96 billion this year, a 12% jump over 2011. "Online retail has been a bright spot for years and we don't expect that trend to change anytime soon, especially with the growth in mobile," said Shay.

The NRF forecast, while a bit tempered, is still more optimistic than several other predictions.

For example, the International Council of Shopping Centers, a mall trade group, is projecting a 2.9% increase in holiday sales. Consulting firm Deloitte is forecasting retail sales from November through January will rise between 3.5% and 4% this year.